Terror reigns in Tallahassee

Terror of Tallahassee, a local haunted house, has spooked the community for seven years


by Brandi Chaney FSVIEW newspaper

October 31, 2005

Tallahassee native Kurt Kuersteiner has had much experience both working in and attending haunted houses.

While living in Harrisburg, Pa., he noticed that there were many haunted houses in the area. However, when he came back to Tallahassee, trick-or-treaters were ghostly figures themselves: no-shows.

Kuersteiner figured that "if they won't come to you, then you go to them."

That is how Terror of Tallahassee came alive.

Terror of Tallahassee was established in October of 1999 and held at the Brooklyn Pasta Factory, later torn down in 2001. Yet, the haunted house stayed, moving to the corner of Woodward and 826 W. Gaines Street in December of 2002.

The Terror of Tallahassee partnered with Terror on Highway 12, a haunted house in northern Tallahassee, from 1993 until 2004.

Now, residents can quiver in their boots and feel their hair rise, as this isn't just some small kiddy haunted house. This house is 12,000 square feet, equipped with mazes, tunnels, special effects and illusions.

"Haunted houses usually do one of three things," said Kuersteiner, coordinator of the Terror of Tallahassee. "They either have a lot of displays that people go in and look at, or they have a lot of tunnels that people walk through to have people jump out and scare them. The really, really rare ones have a lot of theatre scenes that are played out in front of people. We do all three; that's what makes us unusual. We try to make it like a rollercoaster ride, a museum ride and an entertainment show, all rolled into one. We really try to give people something of everything."

Visitors can expect to see vampires, executioners, graveyards, mad scientists, mummies, zombies, black magic and more.

The process involved in making a haunted house can be very arduous. The crew works diligently to make sure that thrill seekers will be satisfied. What may look like a 500 square-foot room while the lights are on can be turned into something that feels much, much larger with the flick of a light switch. The 12,000 square-foot building can easily take 20--30 minutes to get through.

The factory that now houses Terror of Tallahassee has been abandoned for a very long time. Aside from the haunted house, there have been actual haunting incidents that people have experienced.

"We try to attribute that to natural causes like squirrels, rats and other unknown commodities, but at the same time, we also have fun with that unknown aspect of it," Kursteiner said.

Visitors have come to the haunted house from as far away as New Zealand.

"There's nothing more satisfying to me then having a seven-foot linebacker cower in front of me saying, 'please don't kill me,'" staff manager Rick Oliver said.

Everything is done for pure fun. Most of the crew is comprised of volunteers, and the others work to raise money for Key clubs and drama clubs.

Kuersteiner, an English teacher by trade, believes attitude is what makes a good haunted house.

"I do it because I like to see these things go on," said Kuersteiner. "I feel like when I do this, I don't have to dig in my pocket because everyone wants to make a contribution. It takes months and months of our time and effort. I like multiple haunted houses. I support all other haunted houses in town, and hopefully, they do the same with us. As long as the employees are driven by the motivations of providing the entertainment for the customers instead of for themselves, or just to make a buck, you can't help but to have a good haunted house. We are a hundred times more personal than Universal. I have guys who are friends in the business that say, 'I wish I was at your level because you have a big place; you have enough assets to make it exciting, but you're not driven by paying off $100,000 in tickets each year.' We want more customers, but we want to make sure that customers aren't pushed through like cattle."

Oct. 31 is the last day of the event. Tickets are $10, and doors open at 7:30 p.m. Those planning to attend tonight are encouraged to arrive early to avoid long lines.

"I've been here for about three years," staff worker George Patrenos said. "I'd say for the margin that we have, we do a pretty good job. During the years that I have been working here, I've seen a lot of actors come and go through here; but right now, I think we have the best cast. It's a hell of a time."


Sidebar Synopis: Tallahassee's "Terror of Tally" is a seasonal haunted house located off Gaines Street filled with gory props and characters creating a unique Halloween scare. This house is 12,000 square feet of mazes, tunnels, special effects and illusions


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